Teenager denies pushing boy, 13, into river before he drowned
A teenager has insisted that he did not push a 13-year-old boy into a river shortly before he drowned.
Christopher Kapessa died after the incident in the River Cynon near Fernhill in Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales, on July 1 2019.
Witnesses have told South Wales Central Coroner’s Court in Pontypridd that another boy, then aged 14 and who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pushed Christopher from a ledge into the water.
Christopher began panicking and shouted for help – with other children jumping in and trying to rescue him before he disappeared below the surface.
Emergency services attended and Christopher was recovered from the water but later declared dead at the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.
Giving evidence to the inquest the boy, now aged 19, said he “fell” into Christopher but insisted that he did not push him.
Counsel for the inquest, Tom Leeper, asked the witness: “How did Christopher end up in the water?”
The boy replied: “I fell into him.”
Mr Leeper asked: “Did you walk behind him and intentionally push Christopher in the back with the palm of your hands?”
The boy said: “No.”
Mr Leeper asked: “After your physical contact with Christopher, what happened to Christopher?”
The boy replied: “He fell into the water.”
Witnesses have previously told the hearing that another boy, now aged 17 and who cannot be named, said “You stupid c***” after the boy allegedly pushed Christopher into the river.
However, when asked whether the comment was made, the boy replied: “No”.
Another 17-year-old witness told the inquest that the boy had been “laughing” after Christopher went into the river.
The boy told the inquest: “I can remember standing on the ledge, I can’t remember if I was laughing or not.”
At that point of the hearing Alina Joseph, Christopher’s mother, left the courtroom in tears.
The boy said he could not remember asking Killian Haslam, now 18, words to the effect of “shall I push him in?”.
During questioning from Michael Mansfield KC, representing Christopher’s family, the boy was asked how he moved from the bridge to the ledge where Christopher was standing.
The boy said: “I ran to the rock then slowed down a bit. I was still moving faster than walking pace.”
Mr Mansfield asked: “Are you saying you stumbled, slipped and fell just behind Christopher?”
The boy replied: “Yes.”
He told the court: “I said to Chris when I was up on the bridge ‘wait there, I will come and jump with you now’.”
The boy said he could not remember speaking to his friends who were present, or his mother later, about accidentally slipping into Christopher.
“I can’t remember anything really afterwards,” he said.
Mr Mansfield asked: “Are you aware that none of the people who were present that day, your school mates, not a single one of them saw what you say happened?”
The boy replied: “Yes.”
Mr Mansfield asked: “That must have made you wonder about the truth, hasn’t it?”
The boy said: “No, no.”
Mr Mansfield asked: “Would you be kind enough, now four years later, to reconsider what the truth in this case is – that you pushed him in because you wanted to get him in the water?”
The boy replied: “No. There was contact but I didn’t push Christopher.”
During the inquest, witnesses have described how the group of school friends from Mountain Ash Comprehensive School arranged to meet at the site after school on July 1 2019.
Some of the group have told the hearing that Christopher was saying both that he could and that he could not swim. He removed his glasses, top and sliders before going to stand on the ledge.
The boy accused of pushing him into the river told the inquest: “He was excited to go in. He said to me he knew he could swim but not very good.
“I remember him laughing that he wanted to jump in.”
He denied that there was a “little bit of rivalry” between Christopher and himself, with both boys keen footballers, instead describing them as “happy friends”.
Mr Mansfield asked: “Have you ever apologised to Christopher’s mother for accidentally pushing him in the river?”
The boy replied: “No, because I didn’t push him in.”
Under questioning from Cat Jones, representing the boy, he accepted that he had given differing accounts about what happened.
He said: “Yes, where I can’t remember.”
Ms Jones asked: “Would you describe how you have been feeling since this incident took place as trauma?”
He replied: “Yes.”
She asked: “Is it fair to say you have been blanking some of this out?”
He said: “Yes.”
The boy described himself as being nervous about jumping in the river as he was not a good swimmer himself but said he had done so on a couple of occasions before Christopher fell in.
When asked about what happened after that point, he told the inquest: “I looked and I saw him bobbing up and down, he was struggling.
“I jumped in to try to help him. I jumped and swam over to where he was. I tried pushing him up and out of the water but he kept pushing me under.
“I remember trying my best to get him. I tried again. I kept going under. I wanted to save my friend, it looked like he was in danger.
“I tried my best to try to save him. I was crying, screaming, panicking because he was my really good friend.
“I thought he was in a lot of danger. I was thinking what else could I do.”
The inquest continues.
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